Saturday, May 15, 2010

maggie and milly and molly and may and the karma which has not yet shown its face

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

- ee cummings

"it's always ourselves we find in the sea" says edward, my beloved renegade punctuater and lowercase genius. This to me seems a quite nice way of saying that somehow, all that we encounter is a mirror of sorts, for we are not capable of looking out upon the world without looking through our own eyes, which are inevitably covered over with filters, whether they be lovely and kaleidoscopic or gray and despondent. We are, in each moment, casting the hue of our own karmas upon whatever or whomever we perceive. All of our held karmic accumulations are stored as seeds (bijas), generally unconsciously. Though the seeds have not yet fructified (phalonmukha - literally, having not yet shown its face) they are scripting the future, because in our unconsciousness, we inevitably water them, with desire.
The great benefit of practice, is that it gives us early warning signs, insights into what these seeds are; glimpses into the brilliance of conscious freedom. We quiet ourselves enough to hear the still small voice of guidance - which arises not from any external otherwordly source but from within... and then we choose to heed it or not. Buddhism expresses this process as one of great inevitability and some level of severity; life is, afterall, dukkha, most fundamentally-- suffering, or 'dis-ease'. In the Tantra, which is part of Buddhism development, the nature of consciousness is svatantrya: Ultimate, Total Freedom. But this freedom too rests on the foundations of karma's impeccability, along with a healthy dose of lila. (More on that later)
I read a rather startling statement the other night, from a very heavy and fascinating academic paper on Buddhism, Nietzsche, James, Bergson, and other philosophers' perspectives on Karma. Read it! And then you can explain it to me.
Bhikkhu Nanajivako writes:
"Compare the simple(r) statement of the Buddha, with strict reference to the karmic, i.e. the morally relevant, act:
'If anyone were to say 'this person commits an act and he will suffer accordingly' - if that were the case, there would be no (use of leading a) life of holiness, and there would be no opportunity of putting an end to suffering. If anyone were to say 'this person commits an act for which he deserves to suffer accordingly'- if that were the case, there would be (a use of leading) a life of holiness, and there would be an opportunity of putting an end to suffering.' [15]
Woah. This struck me, as I think of Buddhism as being a precise and empirical science of observation of cause and effect... But this statement seems so Draconian somehow; the addition of 'deserves' to suffer adds a certain harshness to the worldview. But I'm starting to see it differently, as I mull it over... If suffering is really more like the great capacity to have clear understanding of that which is harmonious and that which is not, then we can reframe this statement. Perhaps the Buddha is actually implying that, for instance, if we are capable of facing ourselves, facing our lives, perceiving our role in things, having an awareness of the impact of our actions, whether it is unpleasant or pleasant, then we are actually quite blessed; and we deserve to have this consciousness, for in this reckoning we ultimately make better choices. This is very different from a Christian stance, which seeks to erradicate sin. Buddhism has no specific beef with sin, only with suffering. And even suffering, if we decide that it is somehow a great boon to be able to be conscious enough to suffer, and to do so with self-love intact, can be a gift. On the contrary, if we constantly hide from reality, cast out suffering, and instead blame others and shirk responsibilities, then we do ourselves a terrible disservice, for then there is no chance ever of becoming a conscious, free being. We are simply tossed around like limp and lifeless prey; but the predator is us. We are prey to forces that actually are arising from within -- because we haplessly perceive them as arising from without.
In the Tantric philosophy from which Anusara yoga derives its foundation, there is a huge focus on goodness, which I, having spent years fairly indoctrinated along Buddhist lines, initially found to be almost too saccharin sweet. "Somebody get me a treacle cutter", I screamed to myself, for about the first year of Anusara practice. Luckily, the principles of alignment are brilliant and kept me coming back, even while I resisted the . Some of John Friend's favorite terms from Tantric philosophers are Svatantrya - Ultimate Freedom, Chitta - Consciousness, Sri-- Auspiciousness, and Ananda -- Bliss. I've realized after almost 5 years of studying with John and other Anusara teachers that everybody knows that goodness rests upon personal responsibility; to oneself and to the Kula, the community one chooses, and that happiness rests on dropping resistance to the full spectrum of human experience, including the dark. This is why Purna, or fullness, is one of John's other fave terms. I think that John's greatest teaching is that we will inevitably choose more wisely if we are focused on generating joy in our lives and in the lives of others. So, this philosophy is not so different than Classical Yoga, or Buddhism, he is simply approaching it from another angle. Rather than living in avoidance of future suffering, which classical yoga certainly purports is crucial (Yoga Sutra II.16 Heyam Dukham Anagatam: Pain which has not yet come is avoidable) John teaches to move towards joy. In your own infinite freedom, experience everything; don't block anything that arises. But orient around light, around grace, and around auspiciousness. Good luck with that. If it's hard, know that it's hard for everybody, and get more support. Lean on the Kula. Practice, and all will come.

"Enmities are never appeased by enmity, but they are appeased by non-enmity. This is the eternal law." - The Dhammapadam

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